Title: The Aviator's Wife: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin
Published January 15, 2013; Delacorte Press
Genre: historical fiction
About the book: an historical novel about the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh and his wife and copilot, Anne Morrow Lindbergh.
"Certainly, despite his accomplishments, his busy schedule, Charles was never content. The other morning, I happened to glimpse him as he left for work.... And I felt uneasy watching him leave, wondering for the first time, if today was the day he would decide to jump into a plane and fly away from me for good."(ch. 9, Advance Reader's Edition).The novel portrays Anne Morrow Lindbergh as a woman who willingly came second to her husband, the famous aviator who gained fame when he flew solo from New York to Paris on the now famous monoplane, The Spirit of St. Louis, in May 1927. Charles carefully molded her life after their marriage, and made her into an aviatrix who became his copilot on numerous subsequent flights. He even insisted she leave her infant son Charlie to accompany him on a six month flying trip around the world, a compromise she reluctantly made.
Things changed for the famous couple after the kidnapping and murder of their first son. The couple moved to England to avoid the scrutiny of the press and the country, and Charles demanded that Anne never speak about the baby Charlie, not even to the five children they had afterwards.
Charles Lindberg is portrayed in the book as driven - a perfectionist, an almost obsessive compulsive man, in my thinking. With an eye always to the future, he hardly had time to spend with his children as they were growing up, leaving it up to Anne as he flew around the world in many capacities including being a flying consultant. Anne is seen as a woman searching for herself while raising her children alone. Charles encouraged her to write, which she did, and she helped him polish his memoir of his famous first flight, The Spirit of St. Louis, a book which won him a Pulitzer Prize and which was also made into a popular film. She also wrote her now famous book, Gift from the Sea.
When does a hero stop being a hero, the book made me wonder. The novel goes into the controversial wartime period when Charles's speeches seemed to support Hitler and the Nazis. He redeemed himself after the war, and became once again busy, being asked by the likes of Henry Ford and Pan Am to lend them his technical expertise. But this book is about Anne Morrow Lindberg, how she saw her life with Charles Lindbergh, the kidnapping of their son, her up and down life with her famous husband, and how she finally came into her own, toward the end of Charles's life.
The historical details are there in the book, but the feelings of Anne Morrow Lindbergh are a portrayal based on her diaries, letters, and books. Anne comes across as a very real person that you get to know intimately in the book. I think this novel is a stunning achievement as historical fiction. I recommend it for those interested in the Lindberghs and in American historical fiction.
Thanks to the publisher for an Advance Reader's Edition of this book.